Are you happy for a junior doctor to undertake major surgery on you when a senior doctor with plenty of experience is able to perform the operation? Probably not! Well, by Chris Grayling’s (Conservative MP) logic we should elect to have a less senior barrister represent us in a criminal trial even though we are entitled to instruct a significantly more experienced QC to represent us!
Chris Grayling has indicated that cuts need to be made to legal aid (no news there!) and that instructing less senior barristers in criminal cases being funded by legal aid is a way of making sure the pot for legal aid goes further. Basically, less senior barristers should be instructed because they are cheaper than a QC which saves the legal aid fund a few quid. Money saving in a tough economy is a must but should that come at the expense of someone’s liberty?
If the case is a particularly serious or complex one, involving serious issues that would benefit from the attention of a QC, surely a person should be entitled to instruct the best legal representation they can as it is their liberty and freedom that is at stake.
If Grayling’s proposals are implemented then surely QC’S will start questioning the very purpose of their value and status, and experienced Counsel aiming to achieve QC status would re-evaluate their career progression. Why aspire to become a QC when you can receive instructions for the most complex and serious work simply by being ‘experienced’? In effect Grayling is saying, well done on getting to the top of your profession Mr QC but you’re not getting any work out of us as you cost too much.
Grayling’s suggestion could also raise some serious issues of the right to a fair trial, especially if legal aid funding in a criminal case precludes the instruction of the best (QCs). But will you now be able to challenge this especially in light of the Government’s proposals to restrict the right to apply for judicial review? Probably not, but that’s another issue!
It is fair to say the Coalition Government has seriously impacted upon the British public’s access to justice and come April this is set to get worse. What’s more, based on Grayling’s recent comments it looks as though April won’t be the end of the Government’s legal onslaught. Well Mr Grayling, as a society, we await the day a less senior barrister will do for you or your family.
All information is correct on the date of posting.